Marines dedicate Al Taqaddum airfield to fallen aviator

22 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Nathan K. LaForte

A group of Marines recently gathered on the flightline of Al Taqaddum, Iraq to pay tribute to their fallen brother.

In the late afternoon sun Aug. 22, they dedicated the airfield at TQ to Lt. Col. David S. Greene, a reserve Marine AH-1W Super Cobra pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, killed in action July 28.

Greene was flying a mission in support of I Marine Expeditionary Force when he was killed by small arms fire. However, news of the event didn't reach most of the squadron immediately, claimed Cpl. Jacob S. Dahlin, flightline mechanic, HMLA-775.

"I was testing aircraft and we got a call that said we had an aircraft that had taken battle damage," said the 21-year-old Marine from Clinton, N.Y. "The other pilot came up to us and said that he had been hit."

Some Marines did not take the news well, claimed Sgt. Eric G. Frank, avionics technician, HMLA-775.

"That afternoon I woke and came to work," the 30-year-old Bristol, Conn., native said. "On the way there, someone said that one of the pilots had gotten killed. I got angry and was in denial at first. When I got to work they were cleaning and fixing the aircraft."

The loss to the squadron did not just equate to a lost pilot, Marine or an officer, noted Lt. Col. Bruce S. Orner, HMLA-775 commanding officer. Greene's passing impacted the squadron much more heavily than that.

"We lost a quality maintenance officer and a highly experienced and respected pilot," the California State University graduate continued, "but for many of us, we lost a good friend."

From his leaders to his Marines, all the Marines have mourned the loss, added Dahlin.

"We lost an amazing person, leader and family man," he said. "He cared about everything he did. He had a genuine love for everything did and the people he worked with."

"Lt. Col. Greene led us in a way that we would want to impress him and inspired us to work for him," Dahlin remembered about the squadron aviation maintenance officer. "He spent countless hours motivating us to get the aircraft up to defend those guys on the ground. Because of that, he probably saved countless lives. He was an amazing person and a hell of a Marine."

It was his selflessness which shined through to the Marines and anyone who met him, claimed Staff Sgt. Brian A. Sanchez, quality assurance chief, HMLA-775.

"His whole goal was to make sure everything was fine here and to fly and provide support for evacuation or escort," the 31-year-old from Pittsburgh said. "He never thought of himself and held very high morals."

It is for this reason that the airfield was dedicated to the man who dedicated his life to the Marines around him, claimed Orner.

"He would take the time to find out about his Marines," he said. "It wasn't fake, he has a genuine concern. This is an opportunity for the Marines to see that he'll be remembered even when we leave."

"It's also an opportunity for us to pay tribute and pass on his memory to other people," he added.

On hand for the tribute was Brig. Gen. Harold J. Fruchtnicht, 4th MAW commanding general, who said he was honored to be there for the dedication to the fallen reserve officer.

The squadron has since carried on with what they think Greene's wishes would be in his absence, Orner said.

"I think he'd want us to carry on like we always have," he said. "We were asked if we needed any (operational tempo) relief but we declined. We wanted to stay focused and stay on the job. I think that's what he would've wanted."

Dahlin, who was one of Greene's Marines, agreed with his commanding officer. Supporting the Marines is what they should continue doing, he claimed.

"Lt. Col. Greene was very particular about maintenance," he noted. "He believed in what we do. He knew the sacrifices and would want us to continue to get up aircraft and finish the battle."

So the "Coyotes" of HMLA-775 have decided to carry on without him while in Iraq, but none will ever forget him as they walk onto to his airfield, Orner said.